Put a Ring on It : A Conversation with Beth Kendrick


Put a Ring On It is a delicious romp of a novel by Beth Kendrick, author of New Uses for Old Boyfriends. Here we meet Brighton Smith, a reluctant heartbreak tourist, who changes everything with a drunken night that turns into what she calls a "screw up summer" and a new chance at love.

I love the magic of Black Dog Bay with its heartbreak tourists; how did you "find" this place?

I vacationed with my family in Bethany Beach, Delaware. After three days of drinking chilled white wine and eating boardwalk fries and "not writing," I had an idea for a new series-and by incredible coincidence, it was set at the Delaware beach!

Black Dog Bay's claim to fame is that it's the best place in America to bounce back from your breakup. So I got to create all sorts of thematic local businesses: The Better Off bed and breakfast, the Eat Your Heart Out bakery, the Rebound Salon, and the Whinery bar where you can sing karaoke and spend a restorative weekend with Jake Sorensen, the town's "designated rebound guy" (who looks like the lost Hemsworth brother).

The iconic black dog for whom the town was named just sort of scampered into the manuscript without warning. I called my editor and said, "By the way, there's gonna be a magic dog in the new book," and she said, "Okay, that sounds fine." (This is why I adore my editor.)

Brighton learns not only about passion in the bedroom but passion in her career. What kind of jewelry would you have Brighton design for you? What would make it unique for you?

I'd commission a gold cuff bracelet with inlaid with a small black dog (onyx or black diamonds). Inside, Brighton would inscribe the Louis L'Amour quote that inspired the whole Black Dog Bay series: "There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

Brighton loved her ten-year plan; what do you think people gain and lose with such long-term thinking?

Ten-year plans have their place. Striving for excellence is admirable, and you can't achieve goals you haven't set. But ten-year plans don't always account for growth and change and all the blessings and tragedies and surprises life throws our way. There is beauty in flexibility and self-forgiveness.

What would you do with a screw up summer?

What wouldn't I do with a screw-up summer? I'd cash out my savings and travel the world, I'd eat sugar and carbs with wild abandon, I'd get a regrettable tattoo in a regrettable location. Surfing and sangria and shortsighted decisions all the livelong day.


The name Genevieve is given a lot of "weight" in this story. How did you pick her name? What about your other characters like Brighton?

I love the name Genevieve; it's elegant and classic. It's also relatively unusual. That's why I chose it--it's familiar enough that readers can pronounce it in their heads but it's rare enough that it's highly unlikely that you know more than one Genevieve. Like, who has two exes who are both dating Genevieves? How can that be a coincidence? It's clearly Fate.

As for Brighton, I wanted to give her a name that was offbeat, and well, bright. A name that belies the strait-laced, corporate image she tries so hard to maintain. She can wear pinstripes and pearls all she wants, but she can't escape the fact that she's an artist.

Put a Ring on it was so much fun to read. I can only imagine how much fun it was to write. What is your process like? How has it evolved now that you have 12 novels under your belt? What do you do to keep it fun?

I love my characters, and they love me. (Don't tell me they're imaginary; our love is real.) You'd think that after 12 books, I'd have established some sort of streamlined process, but no. I just get a little fizz of inspiration and figure out the story as I go along. I originally introduced Jake Sorensen (the hero of Put A Ring on It) two books earlier (in Cure for the Common Breakup). He was meant to be a tertiary, transitional character, but as soon as he hit the page, I knew I'd be back for him.

When I started the first draft for Put a Ring on It, I interviewed a woman who's been designing and selling estate jewelry for years. Turns out, jewelry stores are hotbeds of scandal and intrigue: engagements and breakups and clandestine trysts everywhere you turn. I was scribbling down story ideas as fast as I could when she showed me an unusual piece: a poison ring, which turned into major plot point in the book. That's usually how it goes with research--you don't really know what you're looking for until you find it, and then you can't imagine how you ever could have written the story without it.

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